5 Ways Technology Makes Fashion More Sustainable
Clothing options have diversified so much in recent years, thanks to the onset of the Internet. Long gone are the days of being confined to the stores at your local mall: now you have the option of getting any kind of garment, from anywhere in the world, delivered right to your house!
Clothing stores are well aware of this, and consistently put out new merchandise to keep up with the demand for clothes. This is especially true for fast fashion brands, or brands that are produced and sold for a low cost. These brands include favourites such as Forever 21, H&M, Fashion Nova, etc. As their clothes are produced at a low cost, they’re constantly able to whip up new designs to keep up with trends and have consistently new merchandise. These low-cost, trendy pieces are perfect for the Instagram-era as well. When everyone wants to try out the latest trend—but no one wants to be photographed in the same outfit twice—cheap trendy clothes are exactly what people want.
It sounds like a win-win—until you find out the impact that fast fashion has on the environment.
It’s actually the second biggest polluter in the world: only surpassed by oil. That means fast fashion has more of an environmental impact than the food industry, and is second only to a business that is infamous for destroying wildlife and literally starting wars. This is staggering—but luckily, there are plenty of strategies you can take up to make fashion more sustainable, such as thrifting, donating, and buying less clothes. As for industries themselves, the tech world is coming out with all sorts of innovations that make fast fashion more sustainable. Word is being spread through technology, too, with awareness campaigns capitalising on the fashion world’s dedication to social media.
1. Social Media Campaigns
Social media is helping spread the importance of sustainability. Thanks to both the Internet and social media, Millenials and Gen Z consumers are more aware than ever about the importance of sustainability and voice their concerns through social media to various companies. Since sustainability is something that consumers now keep in mind when choosing where to shop, companies are being pushed to keep up and prove that they have an environmentally-friendly business. There has also been a rise in sustainability influencers, who promote sustainable fashion and lifestyle choices. For example, Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers lives a zero-waste lifestyle and explains her tips and tricks for cutting down waste on her Instagram and website. She also runs a package-free shop, which is another sustainable shopping option. Another influencer to check out would be Valeria Hinojosa of Water Thru Skin, an eco-conscious lifestyle blog dedicated to fashion, travel, and more.
2. 3D Samples
3D samples are an ideal solution for a fast fashion company, because it’s cheaper, faster, and easier than traditional samples. The process is much cheaper as there’s no fabric to purchase, which cuts down on the waste from creating and shipping. These samples can also be made in a few hours, unlike a regular sample which could take weeks. Most importantly: they’re not thrown away afterwards. While 3D samples sound like an unreliable way to test designs, companies like CLO take into account the way fabric drapes and moves. It also allows you to test out the designs on a multitude of body types, and even provides examples of how the fabric would move when people are running, walking, etc. While 3D samples will never fully replace traditional samples, they save a lot of time and money during the brainstorming stage and allow for companies to be selective about which pieces they want to receive traditional samples of. Still, many companies have been slow to adapt to this change. Hugo Boss has been the only major fashion brand to follow suit, using their own in-house technology to create a virtual runway.
3. New Materials
Producing certain fabrics and materials, like leather and silk, can take a huge toll on the environment because of the amount of water and other resources they use, as well as the pollution they create. However, technology has allowed for new, sustainable fabrics to be made from unconventional materials. For example, Patagonia uses polyester made from recycled bottles in all their jackets. Ecoalf is a Spanish brand that takes plastic bottles from the ocean and recycles them into cool streetwear. Synthetic spider silk, mushroom leather, and kelp-based textiles have also all emerged within the last few years as alternative sustainable fabrics, and have been adopted by big brands such as Stella McCartney. Seeing a luxury brand use these materials in their goods and have it still exude the same status as before shows that swapping fabrics does not take away from quality.
4. Recycling Clothes
Brands like H&M, Monki, & Other Stories, and Madewell promote programs that help you recycle your old clothes easily. Just bring them into your nearest store and they’ll take your old clothes (in any condition!) and recycle them for insulation, carpeting, shoes, and more. On top of that, many of these stores give gift cards or discounts in exchange so you can treat yourself to a more sustainable piece.
5. Reselling and Thrifting Clothes
The Internet is amazing for selling your old clothes and buying thrifted pieces, with tons of sites available for every type of style. Have a luxury item that you never wear but would like to make some money off of? Head over to The RealReal, an online luxury consignment store. It’s also great for buying designer products at a reduced price. Don’t let the price drop fool you—all of the pieces are inspected and approved by The RealReal so you know you’re getting an authentic piece. Want to find something that has more of a “thrifted” feel? Check out Depop or Poshmark, which are homes to re-sellers selling local finds from their thrift stores or their own closet. This gives all the clothes on here a personal feel, and allows you to easily sell your own clothes. Imagine a giant swap meet—but all online. There are loads of other places online where you can sell and thrift clothes—and while it’s not as sustainable as shopping locally—it’s better than buying fast fashion. Our own Choom has recently launched a sustainable shopping platform called offbrand.tokyo, check it out here!
While fashion may be slow at adopting these new technologies, it’s fast becoming a priority as fashion embraces the tech world as well as the desires of an increasingly-aware consumer market that prefers to buy clothes from ethical companies.
Technology is definitely one trend that is helping—not hurting—the fast fashion industry.
Written by Katie Wong.